Six Palestinian citizens were killed and over eighty injured in Gaza yesterday, Monday 12 November 2007, as confrontations erupted in a festival organized by Fatah Movement to commemorate of the third anniversary of the passing of former President Yasser Arafat.
According Al Mezan’s fieldworkers, in the early morning hours yesterday, the police deployed thousands of its members and erected checkpoints at the entrances of all towns and camps in the Gaza Strip. Policemen stopped and searched vehicles transporting Fatah supporters to the festival.
Fatah supporters marched in the thousands across the strip before heading to Gaza City to participate in the central festival, which was organized in al-Katiba Square. Provocations occurred between the demonstrators and the police. Demonstrators chanted provocative slogans against the police and Hamas. The police fired in the air frequently. At approximately 11:45am, a police force opened fire to disperse a group of people who were on their way to the festival near the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City, as a clash occurred between them. Twenty-year-old Tariq al-Najar was killed by the police fire.
Al Mezan’s field worker reported that at approximately 1pm gunshots were heard at the festival, which was about to end. The source of firing was not identified. It caused a state of panic in the festival. The police forces, which were heavily deployed in the streets around the festival, opened fire in the air and assaulted the participants using cudgels. According to eyewitnesses, persons wearing civilian clothes joined the police and fired at the masses. Confrontations increased as Fatah supporters threw stones towards policemen, who responded with intensive shooting. Five participants in the festival, including a child and an elderly man, were killed as a result, raising the toll to six. The victims were identified as:
- 29-year-old Tariq al-Najar;
- 19-year-old Yihya Abu Samra;
- 19-year-old Kamil Muhammad Ziyara;
- 67-year-old Muhammad al-Maseri;
- 11-year-old Ibrahim Ahmed; and
- 26-year-old Badir Al-Awadi
Eighty other people were injured. In addition, a number of journalists who were covering the events were assaulted. According to field investigations, policemen severely beat Khalid Bulbul, who works as a cameraman for Palestine TV, and damaged his camera. The police arrested Ismail al-Za’anoun and Samir Zaquot, who work for Ramattan News Agency, and detained them for one hour.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights expresses its condemnation for the loss of life in these incidents. It condemns the excessive use of force by the police. Excessive force cannot be an acceptable choice to restore order. Al Mezan asserts the following:
- Law enforcement personnel have an obligation to respect and abide by firm instructions that regulate the use of force.
- Law enforcement officers may use force only in accordance with the principle of proportionality. Law enforcement officers who do not abide by this principle must be held accountable for their conduct through a transparent process of law.
- The use of force by law enforcement officers must be seen as an exception and must be restricted to cases where there is direct threat to their personal life a and safety. The use of force must strictly aim to neutralize, and not kill, assailants to the extent possible.
- Law enforcement officers must consider using a variety of measures before resorting to use of firearms.
- Law enforcement officers must observe the rules of law, which protects the freedom of expression and other freedoms, when exercizing their role in maintaining order and security.
Al Mezan expresses its deep concern regarding the number of victims who were killed during Monday’s events and its condolences for their families. The center calls the public prosecution to initiate a prompt, serious investigation in to these incidents and bring those who prove to have breached the law to justice. Al Mezan strongly condemns the deployment of armed men in civilian wear in Gaza’s streets in support of the police forces. Many of those sneaked among the demonstrators and provoked trouble, according to testimonies collected by Al Mezan.